The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Is an Under-Rated Family SUV

Do you have a couple of kids, or maybe one kid and a dog? Good, you’re in the right place. As you’ll see in my 2021 Volkswagen Atlas review, this is a pretty great family SUV. Check out what the Volkswagen Atlas provides. 

Is the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas a good family SUV? 

2021 Volkswagen Altas engine
2021 Volkswagen Altas engine | Allison Barfield

Yes, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is excellent for families. But I’ll get to that in a minute. I need to clear a few things up. Upon receiving the hot, red VW Atlas for a week, I got a lot of weird questions. 

Men and women stared at it with confusion and said things like, “Why Volkswagen?” and “I didn’t know VW made this,” then they asked to look under the hood. A total of five people asked to see that German engineering, so there is a photo above. 

I had the Volkswagen Atlas SE V6. It has an MSRP of about $34,895. It has the technology package and a few other bells and whistles. The 3.6-liter V6 engine cranks out 276 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. The base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder option with 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. 

How does the 2021 VW Atlas drive? 

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is incredibly smooth. It absorbs impacts in the road extremely well. I took it around beat-up country roads in Rock Hill, South Carolina, to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, and had a lovely trip. 

It provides an effortless ride, meaning you don’t feel the need to be on a constant high alert or continuously adjusting the steering wheel. You can just sit back and relax. But if you want to have some fun, this beast provides a good time. 

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas parked near trees
2021 Volkswagen Atlas | Allison Barfield

According to Edmunds, the 2021 VW Atlas accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about 8.1 seconds. It did have an acceleration that felt slow compared to the V8 Toyota Tundra I had last week, but it was still quick and efficient. 

If you want to go, you can. The Atlas is very fast, confident around curves, has responsive steering, confident brakes, and more. It’s also very agile and easy to maneuver. It didn’t feel like a large three-row SUV at all. It felt like a sporty SUV that’s for parents who enjoy driving. 

How is the interior? 

The interior is great. The Volkswagen Atlas feels like an SUV for taller people, which was only an issue for me at 5’1″. It has a low step-in height, so I did get in and out easily. The massive seats in the front will comfortably cradle a variety of body types. 

There were soft-touch leather materials everywhere with wooden veneer and a simple layout. I didn’t experience any fatigue in my two and a half road trip journey. The power seats make a variety of adjustments, allowing the driver and passenger to find the perfect position. 

View of the front cabin of a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas midsize crossover SUV
2021 Volkswagen Atlas | Volkswagen of America, Inc. Newspress Limited

The second row is significant as well. It’s perfect for taller kids and adults. Three people can stretch out comfortably back there. My medium-sized dog felt like a king. However, the third row is reserved for kids. 

When I was back there with the second-row seats pulled all the way back, I had three inches of room between my knees and the back of the second row. The headrest hit my shoulder blades in an awkward spot that wasn’t exactly comfortable. I’d say it’s the right size for kids 4’8″ and under. 

Also, it’s worth noting that the VW Atlas is extremely quiet. I could hear myself think, I could hear my dog judging me from the second row, and more.

You do hear an occasional engine roar with a quick acceleration, but it’s a pleasing roar. Some family vans and SUVs have an intercom system so the kids in the very back can hear you, but this SUV doesn’t need it. 

How is the cargo space? 

With the third-row seats folded flat, it feels like you have an endless amount of cargo space. According to U.S. News, there are 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, which expands to 55.5 cubic feet when they’re folded flat. There is 96.8 cubic feet total. 

The second-row seats have plenty of space for car seats with easy access to install. Plus, the center console is deep and perfect for storing larger items. It’s where I kept my Nintendo Switch. There are four cup holders in the front, and each row has plenty of spots for drinks and snacks. 

I loved all of the storage trays and bins for my smaller items. There is a compartment to the left of the steering wheel that was perfect for my wallet. The trays have durable rubber to make sure your phone stays put, too. 

How is the Volkswagen Atlas on tech? 

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas comes with a standard 6.5-inch touchscreen, but the higher trims come with an 8.0-inch display. The menus seemed a little foreign to me and like they had an extra step involved with each function. 

But, you can plug in your phone to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These systems work very quickly and efficiently. I used Apple CarPlay to display my navigation and podcast at the same time. 

There are plenty of USB ports in the first and second row to keep devices charged. This SUV didn’t have a wireless charging pad, but there is a Wi-Fi hotspot and six-speaker sound system that sounds amazing. 

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I haven’t been in a VW since Volkswagen Jetta models got extremely popular around 2007. They had this attitude that said, “I’m different and I’m proud of it.” So, the differences did take a little getting used to. 

The start button is in front of the center console, and it took me a few minutes to figure out how to fold the seats flat and make adjustments. It can be a little distracting at first, but I got used to the controls by the end of the week. 

I was spoiled by the power liftgate that can be opened with a button near the steering wheel or key fob. You can set the digital cluster display to show how many miles you have left before you need gas, a compass, and more. 

You can also bring up a display on the backup camera with an overhead display of the entire vehicle with parking sensors that show you exactly where an obstacle is in the way. This SUV makes things too easy! 

I recruited friends to take the VW Atlas to downtown Asheville around 5 p.m. on a Friday night, and it was so easy to park and navigate through tight city areas. I wish I had this to parallel park during my driver’s test. 

The stop-and-go technology was interesting. You almost don’t realize it when the engine shuts off, but a light touch of the acceleration starts the engine back up. This can cause a delay for getting off the line if you’re first at a redlight until you get used to it. 

This SUV gets an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, but with the stop-and-go feature, I averaged about 25 mpg. I spent a lot of time in the city and on the highway, and it’s just difficult to think of anything negative. 

The safety features seem beneficial as needed. The blind spot monitor quietly displays a light when you shouldn’t change lanes and the forward collision warning doesn’t sound a loud, jarring beep. It simply suggests applying the brakes. This warning only occurred once when a driver in front of me made a sudden turn.

There are hardly any negatives 

My biggest complaint is that the third-row seats were a little uncomfortable, but they should be fine for anyone that’s under 5’1″. Also, the hood is quite long and hard to see over. This probably isn’t an issue for anyone taller than 5’1″ though. 

The model I had didn’t have all-wheel-drive, but AWD is available. I would have enjoyed taking it in the woods. Also, it can tow up to 5,000 lb, so it can pull smaller travel trailers and campers.